SAN FRANCISCO — Over 28 years at the giant computer chip maker Intel, Renée James…
Ladakh, the land of jagged peaks and barren landscape is alluring and awe-inspiring. Hidden behind this harsh and forbidding façade is an ancient civilization and captivating people. Beyond the old frontiers lies the land of wilderness with its unaltered character and overwhelming natural beauty beckoning the more intense and adventurous of travelers. This awesome wildness and magic belongs to that great land of towering mountains and Buddhist simplicity-Ladakh.
The largest of the 10 provinces of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is bordered by the Karakoram chain of mountains in the north and the Himalayas in the south. With the great Indus flowing right through Ladakh, the province is divided into Leh, the capital, Nubra, Zanskar, lower Ladakh and Rupshu. The many distinctive features of Ladakh are its uplands, craggy, barren cliffs and plateaus. Governed by a climate that provides about 50mm of rainfall each year, Ladakh is cold and dry. One, therefore, will be faced with a long and bitter winter of frozen landscape but yet very beautiful, and a short, hot summer when the precious glaciers melt.
Best Time to Visit
Ladakh region witnesses summer season between the months of April and September and this is the best time to visit Ladakh. This is the time when Ladakh experiences sunny days and the temperature lies around 20 to 30 degree Celsius. The views are lovely and clear, and the nights are very pleasant. In the summer months, the two road approaches to Ladakh, the Srinagar-Leh Highway and the Manali-Leh Highway get cleared of snow and become motorable. Ladakh is visited by tourists and trekkers alike during this time. Along with sightseeing, one can also partake in adventure activities. The rains are occasional. From November to March, the place experiences heavy snowfall and becomes inaccessible by road. However, during the winter months, Ladakh can be accessed by air and is visited by a trekking enthusiasts as it is quite popular for its winter treks. The temperature goes below zero degrees many time and the weather is extremely chilly.
How to Reach
BY AIR –
Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport of Leh is the main airport of the region. This airport is connected to Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar by direct flights of Jet Airways, Air India, and Go Air. The timings of the flights are subject to change due to weather. Plan your trip accordingly.
BY ROAD –
First Approach- Srinagar to Leh The first route is reaching Ladakh from Kashmir Valley through Kargil, around 434 km away. This route remains open from the starting of June till November. Zoji-La pass, at an altitude of 11,500 feet, is a gateway to Ladakh. Regular ordinary as well as deluxe buses are run by Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (J&K SRTC) between Srinagar and Leh. Hire a car, a jeep or a taxi from Srinagar. If you are traveling in groups, renting a bus for Kargil, Leh, and Padum (Zanskar) from Jammu & Kashmir SRTC at Srinagar is another option.
Second Approach-Manali to Leh
Since 1989, Manali-Leh road stretching to 473 km, open from mid-June to early October, has been the second road route to Ladakh. This road takes you via the desert plateau of Rupsho, ranging between altitudes of 3,660 m to 4,570 m. A number of high passes fall on this route, including Taklang-La, the world’s second highest motorable road, 17,469 feet (5,235m) above the sea level. Ordinary and deluxe buses run between Manali and Leh every day and are managed by Himachal Pradesh Tourism (HRTC) and J & K SRTC. This journey is of around 2 days with night camping in Serchu and Pang. Another option is to hire a jeep or a Gypsy.
Travelling through public buses that have a fixed schedule and route is the best option. This option is pocket-friendly and comfortable too. Another option is of hiring a taxi by fixing its price. It is necessary to take the services of registered travel agency in making your transportation arrangement is you are travelling to Tsomoriri Lake, Nubra, Pangong Lake, Tsokar Lake and Dah-Hanu.
Distances by Road
Delhi – Leh: 1047 Km
Srinagar – Kargil: 204 Km
Srinagar – Leh: 434 Km
Manali – Leh: 473 Km
Leh – Kargil: 234 Km
Leh – Deskit (Nubra Valley): 118 Kms.
Kargil – Padum (Zanskar): 240 Km
The Ladakh Festival organized on a large scale is now a regular tourist event on the tourist calendar. There are several schemes to promote tourism to the Ladakh region. These include opening up of inner line areas such as the beautiful Pangong Tso lake on the Indo-China border, Baima, whose villagers trace their descent to the early Aryan settlers and Nubra Valley which is situated near the strategic Siachen glacier on the Indo-Pak border. Along with the Ladakh festival, adventure tourism will figure prominently in the tourism package. A white water river rafting expedition along the 26-kilometre stretch from Fhey to Nimo along the mighty Indus River is a thrilling experience. It the highest point where river rafting is possible in the world. The high altitude and mountains make it an ideal spot for paragliding, mountaineering, trekking and even skiing. The Ladakhis are keen sportsmen and archery contests are frequently arranged at the village level, which draws all aspiring marksmen. Another popular game, polo, is played with great gusto reminiscent of the Mongol horsemen. The no holds-barred, robust game is far removed from the watered down version seen in today’s polo circuits.
Places Around Ladakh
Visitors to Skara village near Leh are treated to a local archery contest. As the contestants draw bow and arrow, bowls filled with the delectable apricot, apple and dry fruits are served to the visitors followed by chang, a heady brew made of barley and gur tea, a regional favorite. There is a change of scene as the Festival shifts to the Nubra Valley. The sleepy pastoral countryside of Nubra which has recently been thrown open to tourism is located on the Indo-Pak border. A trip by helicopter over flies an intricate network of mountains including the Khardungla Pass, the highest motor able pass in the world. The mountains have a reddish hue.
Nubra boasts of a more liberal and progressive attitude having been on the ancient silk route and thus open to outside influence. The people are educated and speak fluent Hindi. Nubra is also the home of the double humped Bactrian camel rarely seen elsewhere in Ladakh. It is in Nubra that one sees the co-existence of water, mountain and desert-a rare sight. But then as many will testify, Ladakh is indeed a rare destination.